Dominic Thiem has opened up on his struggles this season, saying he started "in a hole" after the "euphoria" of winning the US Open last year and has found bubble life difficult to deal with.
Thiem secured his maiden Grand Slam in New York last summer, but his form has dipped since. He lost in the second round and first round of his previous two tournaments and hasn’t played for a month as he recovers from injury.
He also admitted he needed some time to "reset", and has now spoken about the difficulties he has been facing on and off the court.
Zverev downs Berrettini to clinch second Madrid crown
"I spent 15 years chasing the big goal without looking left or right," he told Der Standard. "As I said, I achieved it – under strange circumstances, but that’s not so important to me.
"In a way, some things have fallen by the wayside – my private life, dealing with other things, broadening horizons. You have to do something for your head, for your brain. There was only tennis. I want to change that a bit.
After (the US Open) I was in a state of euphoria, the results still matched, I was in the final of the ATP Finals in London. But in the preparation for this season, I fell into a hole. Whether the looseness will come, we will see, I don’t know, I hope so.
- Djokovic responds to Nadal: I'm not obsessed with anything
- Tsitsipas is player of the year so far, but can he push on?
"I think the pandemic is an additional part of the whole (struggle). If I had won the US Open year in normality, things would have continued normally, and I would probably also be in the state I’m in now.
"When you spend your whole life chasing your one very big goal, give everything to it, and then achieve it, for a while things aren’t the same as they were before. That’s normal. The problem in tennis is that it’s so fast-paced and goes on week after week."
The tennis world has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with players restricted to bubbles at tournaments and mostly not playing in front of fans.
Thiem says other players may find some benefits from the situation, but he finds it tough.
"Coronavirus has taken away the good things, starting with travel, free movement. The bad things remain. It’s difficult to play week after week under these circumstances. There are guys who can put it away, for them living in the bubble is probably even an advantage, like [Dan] Evans or [Alexander] Bublik. They have trouble focusing on the sport in normal times. For them it’s great, they focus exclusively on tennis, there’s nothing else.
Thiem explains how US Open win inspired Kyrgios comeback
"In Dubai, it was extreme, we were locked up, but outside there was normal life. You were let out of the hotel at 9pm and allowed to enter an empty stadium. That’s not so great."
Thiem also revealed that the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 has impacted him.
"Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a completely planned life. Every day, every week, every month is scheduled. I feel better when I know what’s going to happen the next day. That’s gone at the moment. There is a certain emptiness, but that is really no drama.
"I didn’t even watch the Champions League last week, it’s just a tragedy. I also hardly followed the tennis tournament in Monte Carlo."
Prepare to be amazed: Federer's Top 10 shots at Australian Open and Roland Garros
While his form this year hasn’t been impressive, Thiem still has his sights set on Roland-Garros, where he has reached the final for two of the last three years.
The tournament starts on May 30 - a week later than originally planned - and Thiem says winning it is his "big goal", along with success at the Olympics.
"Of course I have a big training backlog. I haven’t had any matches against absolute top players for a long time, they are missing. I don’t know where I stand. I hope that will come in Madrid and in Rome. I want to be fully competitive in Paris, that’s my ambition.
"A medal at the Olympics in Tokyo would be an absolute dream – if they take place. I’d like to know, but that’s up to the pandemic. In any case, I won’t let it take away my desire to play tennis. Because normality will return at some point."
Osaka says risk of staging Olympics must be carefully weighed
Zverev puts on Madrid masterclass to down Thiem in semis